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Volvo Turns Its Eye To Electric Superminis

By raccars Published

Driven both by market forces and an obligation to lower its vehicles' CO2 emissions, Volvo is looking to expand its hybrid or electric car interests, principally in the form of a supermini addition to its line up.

Development costs mean the Swedish brand is looking for a partner in the enterprise, hoping to defray some of the expense by sharing a platform and powertrain. The project hasn't yet reached the design stages, but Volvo has conceded that the electric or hybrid supermini segment is growing, meaning every major manufacturer needs a version of one to gain market share.

Currently work is proceeding apace on Volvo's new platform architecture, planned to underpin all of the brand's forthcoming new vehicles. The Scalable Platform Architecture is set for release in 2015 and is already slated for the next S60 and XC90 models.

The cost of developing this new platform alone is one Volvo is not prepared to undergo a second time, hence the need for a partnership. Hybrid technology is already working well for the brand, with its V60 Plug-In Hybrid selling well. So well, in fact, that the company is struggling to keep up with demand and, as such, is planning to double production rates next year. The world's first diesel plug-in hybrid has impressed buyers with both its economy and performance.

The original production run planned for 5,000 unit sales, as the vehicle is a niche product and priced at well over £40,000, but given the demand this year, Volvo fully expects to be able to sell 10,000 models next year. Dutch customers alone bought 3,000 V60 Plug-In Hybrids in six months, with generous tax incentives available to buyers of hybrids. Increasing customer demand for economy bodes well for the development of such vehicles.

Thanks to the runaway success of its electric powertrain, Volvo is planning to expand its use throughout its range, particularly for 2014's new XC90. The brand sees hybrid technology as the future of auto manufacturing and is keen to keep up with its evolution.

A supermini would be a more radical departure for the brand, known for building larger vehicles. However, the B-segment is becoming an inescapable part of every manufacturer's line up and Volvo cannot really afford to miss out. A combination of the brand's existing, successful hybrid technology, in the form of a supermini, is likely to be a big seller even in such a heavily populated market sector.

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